Improving tissue-engineered menisci for replacing torn or damaged tissue

Serafina Lopez

Spotlight on Ph.D. student Serafina Lopez



Hometown: Albuquerque, NM
BME Degree Program: Ph.D. / Tissue Engineering
Lab affiliation/Adviser: Bonassar LabLawrence Bonassar

Why Cornell?

Cornell, especially the Meinig School, immediately stood out to me as a supportive environment where I would be challenged and encouraged to grow, not only as a scientist, but also as a person. It was very clear that Cornell BME was a genuinely collaborative environment with a wide range of research opportunities and a huge emphasis on community. 

Why biomedical engineering? 

I have always been interested in engineering and problem solving but I was also interested in human health. The importance of helping others in my future career was critical when I was deciding what path to choose and I felt that BME combined all of my interests. I like how diverse the field of BME is and the very wide range of problems it addresses. There is always something new to learn about and new ideas floating around. 

Tell us about your research.

My research in the Bonassar Lab focuses on techniques for improving the structure of tissue engineered menisci for future use as replacement for torn or damaged tissue. I am studying different techniques to manipulate the matrix environment around the cells to help improve the structural development and mechanics of these tissue-engineered constructs. 

While at Cornell/BME, what do you do for fun?

My favorite thing to do out of lab is to be outside. I like to spend as much of my free time as possible hiking, kayaking, or doing something with my dog. If I’m not outside then I’m probably baking, I love trying new recipes and making things for my friends. 

How has the faculty impacted your time at Cornell?

The faculty both in BME and outside of BME have been supportive and great resources for me during my time at Cornell. I have found it really useful to engage with faculty in a variety of different fields and everyone that I’ve worked with has been very friendly, helpful, and extremely knowledgeable. It’s been very valuable to have a diversity of faculty to work with and learn from, both for help on my thesis projects and as mentors for developing as a scientist. 

What has being at Cornell, or studying BME, taught you about yourself? 

My experiences here have taught me that I am capable of being a smart and independent researcher who has ideas and can follow through with them. I feel that I am supported and have resources and advisors available if I need them, but it also feels good to know that if I have a problem or an idea, I can troubleshoot and try things out on my own. My time here has given me a lot more confidence in my abilities and what I am capable of.

What is your favorite thing to do in Ithaca? Any recommendations?

I think my favorite part about Ithaca is all of the water! Growing up in the desert, it’s pretty neat to have a lake in your backyard and lots of waterfalls to visit. I also enjoy exploring all of the U-pick farms around Ithaca at different times of year. It’s fun to pick the variety of fruits and vegetables and I especially like trying the many different and unique types of apples that grow here. 

When you reflect on your time at Cornell, what stands out the most to you? 

The network of people that I am surrounded by at Cornell stands out to me the most. The friendships that I’ve made here are definitely some that I will treasure forever. It’s so wonderful to work with such an amazing group of people who are so smart, friendly, and challenge me in so many different ways. I find it rewarding to be in a place with so many like-minded and motivated people who have a passion for advancing and supporting knowledge and change in both science and society. 

What’s the next step for you?

I’m not quite sure what my next steps are exactly. I do know that I want to continue in research and development and take my passion for combining medicine and engineering further. 

Quote that helps inspire your work/life?

I really like this quote by Patrick Rothfuss:

  • “It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he'll look for his own answers.”


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